Cerebral Palsy by Ilana Estelle
The subtitle of this book is “Finding the Calm After the Storm”, and to a certain extent the writer of this book has discovered some sort of calm after a lifetime of dealing with what she acknowledges now to be a disability. The book repeats the assertion that she was not formally diagnosed with cerebral palsy until she was forty – six, and then only as a result of her mother finally telling her that she had a difficult birth. This is an honest account of a life in one aspect, the discovery and dealing with a formal diagnosis of a physical disability. The further revelation that her attitude to others and her progress at school was potentially shaped by autism has left her with a desire to explore her feelings on websites and ultimately this book. Written with an advanced understanding of the nature of life with a disability, this is a solid book of coming to terms with problems that have affected life on a daily basis. It is not full of medical detail, but written more generally. It focuses very much on one person’s experience of life, survival and way of coming to terms with revelations which prove to be life changing. I was very interested to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
This book describes itself as part of part memoir, part motivational guide. Estelle has a sincere writing style which shows a strong desire to hold nothing back. She mentions how her father would take her to regular hospital appointments and encourage her to walk ‘normally’, but neither parent told her of her diagnosis at the age of two, if they knew of it. This is a non-linear book which does not follow a time line; rather it expands each chapter from a heading such as “Family Life” and “Understanding Cerebral Palsy”. It makes the very valid point that every disability is different, not just in its physical manifestation, that is whether it is a limp or necessitating the use of a wheelchair. From the text it would appear that Estelle is nearer to the former, but she is more concerned with the cause of her difficulties. Another way that disabilities differ is the attitude with which someone deals with it. Estelle explains that the lack of certainty about the disability for most of her life has affected how she has dealt with it, and that her diagnosis has expanded her view considerably. The book sets out her story, leaving points of advice and thoughts for the reader for boxes which appear throughout the book, such as “Don’t see anyone with a disability as a problem, or someone that needs to be fixed”. There are also quotes which seem relevant , from such as The Dalai Lama and Winston Churchill. These can be seen as motivational, reassuring, representing a different view from the norm.
This is a book which covers so much of life, health and well being. Estelle begins from a difficult place , but she has shown in this book that sharing her situation has helped her and she hopes will help her readers. I found it a fascinating and very readable book, with some very interesting thoughts. It is an intensely honest book, which I found genuinely interesting throughout. This is a book which would be of interest to many, revealing how one person feels about their disability and the resulting difficulties they have found with life.It adds greatly to the understanding of the effects of late diagnosis, and the effects of autism in one life.